REBEL HEART

Rebel Wil­son is the def­i­ni­tion of a mod­ern woman: switched-on, un­afraid and em­pow­ered by her ed­u­ca­tion and self-worth. She is also com­edy dy­na­mite, writes Ali­son Ve­ness. Styled by Kate Darvill. Pho­tographed by Ni­cole Bent­ley.

VOGUE Australia - - Beauty -

“A rebel is a per­son who stands up for their own per­sonal opin­ions de­spite what any­one else says. A true rebel stands up for what they be­lieve is right, not against what’s right … It’s all about be­ing an in­di­vid­ual and re­fus­ing to fol­low a crowd that forces you to think the same way they do even if it means be­com­ing an out­cast to so­ci­ety. True rebels know who they are and do not com­pro­mise their in­di­vid­u­al­ity or per­sonal opin­ion for any­one. They’re straight­for­ward and hon­est and they will sure as hell tell it like it is.”

So reads the Ur­ban Dic­tio­nary’s def­i­ni­tion of ‘rebel’, one that kind of nails Rebel Wil­son.

We are hav­ing lunch to­gether at the Park Hy­att Syd­ney, two days after she has been at Mel­bourne’s Court of Ap­peal to hear Bauer Me­dia’s ap­peal against the rul­ing of Supreme Court judge Jus­tice John Dixon, who awarded her a record sum of $4.5 mil­lion in dam­ages against Bauer for defama­tion. What­ever is de­cided (at the time of writ­ing, the next court date had not yet been set), the vic­tory is al­ready hers – the de­ci­sion is un­chal­lenged: she has won the big­gest ever defama­tion case in Aus­tralian his­tory.

“With over 40 of the ques­tions that went to the jury, we won on ev­ery sin­gle ques­tion, which is a com­pre­hen­sive vic­tory,”

Wil­son says. When the amount is even­tu­ally set­tled she will be able to name which chil­dren’s and hospi­tal char­i­ties and non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions will ben­e­fit from the dam­ages. There is a pos­si­bil­ity, how­ever, that the case may go to the High Court after the ap­peal. “I guess be­cause Bauer Me­dia is a com­pany the strat­egy has been bul­ly­ing through­out,” Wil­son says, adding: “I took on a huge me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion owned by Ger­man bil­lion­aires who are ex­tremely ag­gres­sive and try to bully and in­tim­i­date any­one who legally chal­lenges them. I had a great case and Bauer’s con­duct was so dis­gust­ing. There was so much more ev­i­dence that we couldn’t even put in the trial, as the trial was al­ready so long. The com­pany has be­haved dis­grace­fully and so I thought I had to take them to task. I did, and won on ev­ery sin­gle is­sue. I guess in that way I can put it be­hind me, and at least any­body who did be­lieve the ar­ti­cles knows now that it was all made up and that Bauer knew it was false and printed it any­way.”

It has been a stress­ful pe­riod for Wil­son: the lies, the loss of her liveli­hood for the past few years, and hav­ing to en­dure 19 sit­ting court days. Her law de­gree helped, but for any­one it would be ex­haust­ing. Yet she will not be worn down, even though she doesn’t feel like it’s over.

She has been keep­ing busy lately, with five movies in de­vel­op­ment, some of which she will co-star in, and with writ­ing scripts. And through it all she still man­ages to stay up­beat for al­most ev­ery­one – the fans, the au­to­graphs, the self­ies … she is the funny lady, after all – Fat Amy, so very ‘pitch per­fect’. And, of course, she could break into song at any mo­ment, but she won’t be­cause that is what she does for a job, not what she does in real life.

In per­son, Wil­son is fo­cused and thought­ful. “I was unique and I was am­bi­tious at act­ing school,” she says, re­fer­ring to the Aus­tralian Theatre for Young Peo­ple (ATYP), which she at­tended at the same time as she stud­ied for her arts/law de­gree at the Univer­sity of New South Wales. And noth­ing has changed.

Over lunch we drink wa­ter and order bar­ra­mundi, chicken, steamed veg­eta­bles and chicken-salt fries with pa­prika. Wil­son talks more than she eats and her food is left cold. She has the best smile and great skin (she uses Der­ma­log­ica and loves SK-II).

“Why do I have to be so bril­liant at ev­ery sin­gle thing I do?” – Fat Amy, Pitch Per­fect 3.

She says she is proud to be on the cover of Vogue Aus­tralia for the first time and, of course, worked it on the day we pho­tographed her in an LA stu­dio. The trick to mod­el­ling, she says with a sly smile, is imag­in­ing you are a Victoria’s Se­cret model. “Be that woman and own it.” And she did. (Watch her hi­lar­i­ous video on the set of our shoot at Vogue.com.au.)

She is an in­spi­ra­tion for stand­ing up for what you be­lieve in, is all ‘girl power’ and be­lieves in hu­man rights and women’s rights. She has spon­sored many chil­dren at the School of St Jude’s in Tan­za­nia and her first spon­sored stu­dent re­cently grad­u­ated. “She got a schol­ar­ship,” Wil­son says proudly, al­though she was ready to pay for her tu­ition.

The ac­tress loved school and still has a strong group of friends from Tara Angli­can School for Girls in western Syd­ney, with whom she cel­e­brated a 20-year re­union in LA last year. As a stu­dent she was very aca­demic, achiev­ing 99.3 in her Higher School Cer­tifi­cate. She was also good at maths. Jokes, she says, are about maths and pat­terns. “So, like red, red, black – three is the quick­est way to get a joke – you learn that at com­edy school,” she ex­plains. “You set up an ex­pec­ta­tion and sub­vert it; it’s a good way to get a laugh. It’s math­e­mat­i­cal, that’s why that’s funny.”

Her next com­edy, The Hus­tle, is about two con women, loosely based on the 1988 film Dirty Rot­ten Scoundrels, starring Wil­son in the role played by Steve Martin, and Anne Hath­away in Michael Caine’s for­mer role. “This is not just a re­make of a re­make of an orig­i­nal – that was with Mar­lon Brando, and was a book,” Wil­son clar­i­fies.

On set, the two stars spent a lot of time laugh­ing and singing. “An­nie was in an acapella group in col­lege and so for some rea­son we ob­vi­ously got talk­ing about that. She is very pro-fe­male com­edy.”

The Hus­tle is co-pro­duced by Wil­son’s pro­duc­tion com­pany Camp Sugar, and is slated for an Oc­to­ber 2018 re­lease, fol­lowed by its sec­ond of­fer­ing, Isn’t It Ro­man­tic, a ro­man­tic com­edy starring Priyanka Cho­pra and Liam Hemsworth, set to open on Valen­tine’s Day, 2019.

Pro­duc­ing suits Wil­son. “It’s the first time my name will come up with ‘pro­duced by’, which is very cool,” she says proudly of The Hus­tle. Camp Sugar gives Wil­son the free­dom to de­velop her own scripts with her team be­fore sell­ing them to the stu­dios. “They sup­ply the money to make the film, as com­mer­cial come­dies cost on av­er­age US$35 mil­lion to make,” she ex­plains. “They take over a lot of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and I get to see it through cre­atively. I like to say I’m the guardian of the com­edy – I have very strong views about the jokes in the film.”

At the end of shoot­ing, Wil­son anony­mously at­tends the test screen­ings to gauge au­di­ence feedback: “I wear a lit­tle wig and sit at the back and peo­ple don’t know I’m there tak­ing notes and lis­ten­ing to what peo­ple are say­ing. Then I make changes.”

As a re­sult, an ex­tra mu­si­cal num­ber is be­ing added to the clos­ing scene of Isn’t it Ro­man­tic be­cause the al­ready ex­ist­ing mu­si­cal num­ber was the high­est-test­ing scene: “So we’re like: ‘Let’s give them more – a fun thing at the end.’”

When it comes to the writ­ing, Wil­son prefers a quiet lo­ca­tion with a view. “When you’re writ­ing, it’s very imag­i­na­tive and in­ter­nal,” she ex­plains. Be­fore we met, she had been look­ing out to the Opera House from her ho­tel room, brain­storm­ing ideas for her next col­lec­tion for Rebel Wil­son X An­gels, her plus-size cloth­ing la­bel. De­signs are

“I LIKE TO SAY I’M THE GUARDIAN OF THE COM­EDY – I HAVE VERY STRONG VIEWS ABOUT JOKES”

based on the body-con styles Wil­son her­self loves to wear and what her team imag­ines and refers to as ‘This Is Rebel’s Friend’ would like to wear. Sneakers, flats and tiny kit­ten heels are also set to join the range.

She has also been writ­ing “a lit­tle bit” for the Billboard Awards, which she is in­vited to, to present an award this month. “Un­scripted, drugs, chaos …” she says of the back­stage crazi­ness of mu­sic events. “It’s the day after the royal wed­ding, so not many peo­ple will have done jokes from the ac­tual event, so I’ll do some­thing re­lated to that,” she says. I ask if she is on a Meghan Markle tra­jec­tory: “Well, I can’t marry a royal; they are all taken now,” she quips.

Asked about ro­mance, the co­me­dian re­veals she doesn’t have a boyfriend. “I am to­tally sin­gle. I think I’m look­ing for the right per­son, but there isn’t a good pool of peo­ple to date in LA.” As she dis­closed on Chan­nel 10’s The Project, she would be happy to be on the next sea­son of re­al­ity show The Bach­e­lorette. “I re­ally re­lated,” she says of hav­ing watched So­phie Monk in the last se­ries, “al­though I don’t think they could af­ford me.”

Wil­son is a ma­jor con­sumer of re­al­ity TV and has just fin­ished Mar­ried At First Sight. “I be­came ob­sessed with that show; I had to watch ev­ery episode,” she says. The Netflix doc­u­men­tary Wild Wild Coun­try, about a cult in Ore­gon, was also on her view­ing list, along with “heavy dra­mas”, like The Hand­maid’s Tale. “Elis­a­beth Moss – I love ev­ery­thing she does. And I love Went­worth, such good Aus­tralian drama with such strong fe­male ac­tors.”

She watches a lot of Bravo, too, and The Block and HGTV, the home ren­o­va­tions chan­nel. Wil­son loves prop­erty. After lunch she will be off to look at the Syd­ney prop­erty she bought two years ago. She also has homes in LA, New York and Lon­don. In­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing and cus­tom de­sign­ing are other pas­sions. “I was liv­ing with Matt Lu­cas, who has a good eye for de­sign and worked on the in­te­rior de­sign of the house in West Hol­ly­wood we shared,” she says. “I learnt a bit from that and then it just started. I went with Jeff Lewis, who has a show called Flip­ping Out, and I learnt ev­ery­thing: I went to the mar­ble quarry, tile store, floor­ing stores, all of them … and I’m ob­sessed with tex­tured wall­pa­pers. I never thought I would even care about that kind of thing, but maybe be­cause I travel so much and work, so hard I want my house to be a sanc­tu­ary.”

Her LA home is in the Hol­ly­wood Hills, which, she says, “is a bit more peace­ful and you have deer, rabbits and coy­otes … which are not so good”. The house faces the iconic Hol­ly­wood sign and her of­fice is close by in West Hol­ly­wood.

For all the TV in­spi­ra­tion she re­mains all about the movies. “It’s still where the power is,” she says. We talk awards – or rather the lack of an Os­car cat­e­gory for com­edy. Doubt­less she will lobby for that now she is a mem­ber of the acad­emy. Of the five movies she has in de­vel­op­ment, one is in part­ner­ship with Si­mon Cow­ell. “We are mak­ing a film about K-pop, be­cause he is very mu­si­cal. It will star pri­mar­ily an Asian cast. And I just sold one to Univer­sal about bi-racial twins. It was in the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic re­cently and I thought it was very in­ter­est­ing; espe­cially con­sid­er­ing race re­la­tions in Amer­ica, and to do a comic sto­ry­line with overt themes about race in it but that isn’t overtly about race … it’s a very rare phe­nom­e­non. We are writ­ing the script now. It’s in the early stages but it’s a big com­mer­cial com­edy.”

Her favourite movies grow­ing up were Muriel’s Wed­ding, which had a big in­flu­ence on her. “I just adore it; it is so funny and heart­felt and emo­tional.” Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was another one. “I re­mem­ber my mum tak­ing me to the RSL club to watch movies and Priscilla was hi­lar­i­ous. I’d love to cre­ate my own Aus­tralian movie that is like that – some­thing univer­sal. I don’t think I’ve got it yet.”

She adds: “There are so many re­ally great tal­ents from here … Rose (Byrne) out of nowhere be­comes like a com­edy le­gend – in­cred­i­ble She just in­hab­its a char­ac­ter and does it from there.” Of the new gen­er­a­tion of Aussies to watch she says Geral­dine Viswanathan “is the fun­ni­est in Block­ers”, and Kather­ine Lang­ford of 13 Rea­sons Why and Love, Si­mon, fame is “re­ally tal­ented”.

Re­cently she ap­proached Paul Ho­gan seek­ing per­mis­sion to do a Crocodile Dundee re­make, since he owns the rights to the film. “Ob­vi­ously it would have Paul Ho­gan in it in some way, but he doesn’t want a fe­male to play Crocodile Dundee,” she says. “Which I think is a trav­esty as I think out of any­one in Aus­tralia I’m the most suited to do it …” Doesn’t he know she is qual­i­fied?

“I’ve wres­tled croc­o­diles and din­goes si­mul­ta­ne­ously.” – Fat Amy, Pitch Per­fect 1

Sur­pris­ingly, Wil­son ad­mits she never in­tended to be a co­me­dian. While train­ing at ATYP she was de­ter­mined to be more like Dame Judi Dench. “I al­ways thought I’d be a dra­matic ac­tress,” she says. Con­tin­ued on page 176

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